Six Important Factors in Good Document Design

When designing the layout of a document there are many things one needs to put into consideration. Part of the challenge is that there are no specific universal rules to it, but having said that there are many scholarly theories and principles that you can experiment with. According to (Parker 1990 p. 2-19) The 6 main design principles to focus on are proportion, direction, consistency, restrain and detail/relevance.

Proportion refers to the size of the graphic elements on the page eg the title, pictures and body of text. The size of a graphic element should be proportionate to its relevance. The direction of a documents design refers to how well the reader is guided through the page in order of what they should be viewing first. “Good design provides a roadmap guiding readers from point to point” (Parker 1990 p. 9). Consistency involves using restraint when it comes to different fonts, margins and other design elements to create a continuing format from the beginning to end. This won’t make your pages boring, but it will make them symmetrical and much more professional. Contrast is a very important aspect of document design gives life to the page, makes it attractive to the reader and makes the important features stand out from the rest. Strong contrast in the colours and boldness of different elements has a high impact on the visual effect and keeps the reader interested. Restraint is probably one of the hardest design principles to apply but also one of the most important. An overly busy page is a confusing page and one that will never have a positive effect on the reader’s absorption of information. White/empty space is incredibly important and must be used. However tempting it is to use as many eye catching elements as possible, a good design has a few basic ones that enhance your message you are trying to communicate. Finally the fine detail of your document design must always be paid close attention to. The smallest detail can completely throw off the outlook of a page. Slight inconsistencies with the placing of elements/spaces between texts will stand out straight away and can take away and can completely ruin the effectiveness on the page. So always check over and have others look at the design before publishing, to make sure that any small discrepancies are fixed.

Parker, R 1990, Looking good in print : a guide to basic design for desktop publishing Ventana Press, Chapil Hill, NC

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